Like the housing industry, real estate “guru” Mark Bosworth is in crash mode

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Mark Bosworth was born in Idaho to a Mormon family, in the middle of a pack of eight children. He moved with his family to the Valley twice, the first time when he was 10 years old. He claims to have been the youngest person ever to have two paper routes for the Republic, a newspaper from which he would later buy millions of dollars' worth of advertising.

The family moved back to Idaho a couple of years later and bought a gas station, where he spent many hours working while most of his peers goofed off, he says. But the venture failed, and the family moved back to the Valley — this time to Maryvale — in 1978.

At 16, Bosworth says, he got a job at a real estate firm that managed rental homes, getting a taste of his future career. He and his friends helped fix up the houses — painting, mowing lawns, doing maintenance. He was earning money and learning new trades, so he didn't see the need to finish high school. Instead, he started a roofing business.

In addition to not obtaining a diploma, he never bothered to get a real estate license.

The need to make more money became acute after he married a girl he had met at the church he attended. She, like him, wanted to enjoy the finer things in life.

He says a movie changed his life. It was Wall Street, the story of an ambitious stockbroker and a greedy billionaire investor.

"I decided that's who I wanted to be," Bosworth says. "So I became a stockbroker."

He says he made $93,000 during his first year at First American National Securities. He says he was able to work 100 hours a week, because "I'm blessed, in that I only require two to three hours of sleep."

Within two years, he says, he was driving a new BMW and managing 100 employees, earning vast amounts of money for someone in his 20s.

Bosworth admits he "got too caught up in the nice cars, the nice houses."

By the mid-'90s, he had spent most of his money. He admits that this speaks poorly of his financial-planning skills.

"It was horrible money management," Bosworth says now. "Knowing what to do and having the discipline to do it are two different things."

He says the money trouble was secondary, though, to the unfolding problems in his personal life. He says he began having difficulties with his wife, Brenda Sue Bosworth, in the late 1980s. The two were divorced in 1995 after having four daughters together.

Well before his divorce, Bosworth was having an affair with Lisa Capron and fathered two boys with her: Blake, born in March 1991, and Brett, born in June 1995. Bosworth's name wasn't on the boys' birth certificates.

After the second child was born, Capron hit Bosworth with a paternity order to prove he was the boys' father. He says she did it indirectly — she was seeking state aid to help pay for the boys' medical expenses, and the state required the order.

Bosworth was broke by the time of his divorce — he and Brenda Sue had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy before they split up, leaving a long list of creditors empty-handed.

"I walked away from that marriage with nothing but an orange crate [full of belongings]," he says.

He married Capron in 1996. She was a much better partner for him, he says, with a head for planning. She insisted that he work fewer hours and stay home with the family more. At first, he says, they lived frugally and saved money, coming up with an idea to buy 10 rental homes throughout the coming years.

It was the start of something big — the beginning of what was to become a mini-empire of property management for Mark Bosworth and, by extension, his new wife.

An accident with Brett happened the very next year.

The 2-year-old drowned during a pool party at the Bosworths' house. His body was found floating just a few feet from other children playing in the pool. Bosworth had been at work that afternoon while Lisa was home with the kids.

"It was a pretty horrific experience," he says. "It put me back into focus of what life's about."

He says he began attending church regularly, which he hadn't done in six years.

He also got busy making serious money.

Ultimately, the Mormon Church profited from his newfound motivation. Bosworth's bankruptcy sheet shows he tithed to the tune of $100,000 last year.

Mark Bosworth's recipe for wealth involved many of the ingredients that led to America's foreclosure crisis, such as no- or low-money-down loans, risky refinancing plans, and the false promise of endless, fast-growing equity.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.